Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rural Poverty | Virginians' income ranks No. 8 Kudos to Virginia for getting a good spot in the rankings. As always the poorest states are in the South. The poorest counties were all rural. Not the inner cities, but rural areas. It has always aggravated me how rural poverty is so overlooked. Certainly there is a lot of poverty in many of our nation's cities, but at least those people are geographically close to jobs, college education, and choices. If you can't afford a car, you have at least have a chance at being able to walk or take the bus to a job or job training center. If you are carless far from a town, your choices are quite limited.

Universal Preschool?

Some argue for universal (code: taxpayer funded) preschool, implying that parents aren't up to the task of raising their children and preparing them for school. In 2006 Californians will vote on it. Some even want to make attendance mandatory. I absolutely am opposed to this. Sometimes it's enough to make me want to become a Libertarian. Hey, some parents aren't up to the task of raising their children, but I don't think mandatory preschool for all will solve very many of those problems. I feel so sad for little children trapped in crazy homes, but I just don't believe another government program will help much.

Or, here's an idea - what about universal kindergarten? Oh, wait, we already have that, and yet disadvantaged children still remain disadvantaged. How is starting them a year earlier going to level the playing field?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Getting a Physical

I went to the doctor this morning and I’m not even sick.  An aggravating waste of time, but since I have lived here over two years and still don’t have a primary care physician, I figured I better find one and establish a chart.  So I got a physical – my insurance pays for one a year.  Now I’m all ready to get sick!  No, really, I hope I don’t ever have to go back.  I’m supposed to go get blood work done, but I’m tempted to skip out on that.  It’s one of my least favorite activities, and I don’t want to have to bug grandma to babysit again.  Maybe I’ll try to drag them along with me, although when I took 18-month old S. with me once, she was horrible.  The lab techs were not amused.  Anyway, my husband called me from work to see how my checkup went.  I tell him that I’m healthy, and he says, “You are?” like he’s surprised!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Suspension Vacation

Suspensions are overused in today's hands-off-parenting world. This Washington Post article highlights some of the problems caused by spotlighting two sisters suspended for five days for fighting. The teenagers spend their time shopping, lounging around, and watching TV. There's no need for me to state the obvious about that. But a few things did catch my eye.

Kymber and Shawnte were suspended for five days, and the principal later told them that they can make up the work they missed, their mother said.
"But why couldn't they have just sent the work home? I wish we could have had that for them to do at home -- it would have kept them motivated," said Sanders, 33, an operating room coordinator at Inova Fairfax Hospital and a member of a National Guard unit. "I know they're being punished. But are they really being punished? I don't understand the value that they're trying to teach children."

Argh. First, the school can't just send the work home immediately because it probably isn't ready. Most (good) teachers' lesson plans are very fluid, and are adjusted from day to day. A teacher can only give you a general idea of what the class will be doing in five days. Nevertheless many schools do require that of teachers. It was a real burden having to take the time to prepare packets to send home to suspended kids, especially when I knew that what I was sending might not end up being what the rest of the class was doing. However, in some cases, that burden was more than offset by having a break from the troublemaker for a few days!

Second, why is the parent letting her kids have such fun on their suspension? Take away the cell phones, car keys, and TVs. Get out the cleaning supplies! If the school didn't send work home, then have them read a chapter or two ahead in every textbook.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Just back from Thanksgiving travels.  We did the split-the-holiday routine in only three days.  It helps that both of our parents reside in the same state, but it was still a little hectic.  First we went to my parents’ home so we could see my brother, who is getting ready to leave on a church mission to Brazil for two years.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone to see them until Christmas.  Then we went to J.’s side of the family for the actual Thanksgiving meal, and stayed over until Friday.  It was nice to see everyone, of course, but with such short visits I feel as though I did not spend enough time with anyone.  However, considering how awfully difficult Kate was, I don’t regret not staying longer.  She has real issues with sleeping in her playpen.  The first night away she did okay, basically sleeping through the night, so I was deceived into thinking she would be fine the next nights.  Not so.  The next two nights were just dreadful; filled with lots of screaming and little sleep.  She wanted her own crib, and there was nothing that would calm her down.  Holding her, bringing her to sleep with us – nothing was acceptable.  It’s at those hopeless two o’clock in the morning hours that I swear I will never travel again!  Naturally, today she was extra grouchy from all of her sleep deprivation.  I got her to take a nap, to my great relief, but only 40 minutes later, to my absolute horror, I find Sophie and her cousin jumping on the bed in the room Kate was sleeping in.  Kate was jumping up and down in her playpen laughing along with them.  I did not laugh.  For the rest of the afternoon Kate was just unbearable – until she fell asleep in the car coming home.

Well, that’s all seems a bit negative!  Really, aside from the sleep issues, the holiday was good.  In keeping with the spirit of the day, I will say that I do have so many blessings in my life that I am thankful for!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Parents' Effect on Achievement Shaky??

I hardly know what to say! I don't care what studies have been done - parents have an enormous effect on their child's achievement. Parents have a direct impact on how much value a child places on learning. Parents have a major contribution to their child's literacy by controlling (or not) the amount of reading and TV in the home. Parents teach their children how to behave (a child who can't be respectful and behave in school will miss out on a lot of learning). Parents can send their child to school well fed and rested so they can be ready to learn. Parents can send their child to school from a loving and secure home. So don't tell us it's "shaky."

That said, I do agree with some of the points in Jay Mathews's column. In particular,

"Principals need to make schools welcoming places for parents," said Elizabeth Useem, a research consultant with the group Research for Action in Philadelphia, "but that is different from putting huge amounts of time into trying to get parents involved in governance or in coming to events at school planned for them. It takes a long time for parental governance input to work its way into classroom learning -- and even then, it might not be helpful input."

"Great schools and school systems . . . aren't obsessed with teaching the parents," Allen said. "They aren't making excuses. They are focused on one thing: teaching the children."

I agree. Keep parents informed, encourage involvement, offer help if needed, but don't try to "teach" them. That seems a little too patronizing as well as being fruitless.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving Errands

Not much going on today.  We’re going out of town tomorrow, so I’m trying to get things in order.  The girls and I went to the store for a few last minute items this afternoon.  It seems like I am in the store every other day.  I can’t seem to get it together enough to shop just once a week.  Anyway, Kate demonstrated that she is old enough to throw a real fit when I took the bag of Goldfish away from her.  I tried giving her just a few crackers to hold in her hand, but no, she would have none of that.  Shrieking and arms flailing, she refused them.  Fun, fun, fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's Wrong With This Outfit, Mom?

We women are losing ground! Sometimes I wonder what on earth has happened to the feminist movement. More and more we allow ourselves and our young daughters to be viewed as sex objects through inappropriate clothing. This op-ed article from the Washington Post hits the nail right on the head. It amazes me what parents, especially fathers, let their little girls wear sometimes. Do they want every pedophile and teenage boy paying special attention to their daughter? Or do they want their daughter growing up with a damaged self-image just because they were afraid to say "no"?

Next time you're in Wal-mart or a toy store, go look at the doll section and find the Bratz dolls. Black leather, thigh-high boots, peek-a-boo tops, pouty lips, sultry eyes, and leather bustiers are what they wear. These dolls are marketed for the preteen crowd. There is also a new Baby Bratz line of stuffed dolls for the preschool crowd. Gotta get them hooked on sex early, I guess! I know perfectly reasonable parents who believe in modest clothing who have purchased these dolls for their kids. I can hardly believe anyone could be so crazy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Tax Revolution

I’m all fired up about I book I just read, The FairTax Book: Saying Goodbye to the Income Tax and the IRS, by Neal Boortz and John Linder.  In a nutshell, all federal taxes (including Social Security and Medicare) would be replaced with a retail tax of about 23%.  I think it sounds wonderful!  At any rate, even if it’s just a mediocre idea, it can’t be any worse than our current system.  Critics say that it would be hard on the poor, but not so.  This varies from traditional sales taxes in that everyone would receive a monthly “prebate” to cover the tax on the basic necessities of life.  So the poor would pay little or no tax.  

Currently in Congress as the FairTax Bill (H.R. 25) it does not aim to reduce or increase government spending.  The 23% is calculated to keep revenues at their current levels.  I love that it is such a simple plan.  You keep all the money you earn, and pay tax only when and if you buy something (above the basic necessities of life).  No taxes on savings or investment earnings.  No more loopholes for the rich.  No more tax evasion for “under-the-table” payments.  Even drug lords and criminals will pay their tax when they spend their loot.  No corporate taxes – thus bringing back businesses and jobs to the U.S.  The authors propose that once the current embedded taxes on all goods and services are abolished, actual retail prices will decline, so adding on the FairTax will not make prices much different than what you are paying now.  That part I’m not so sure about, but we’d still be getting our entire paychecks plus the “prebate,” so it would at least even out.   The only real problem that I see with this plan is that it is just too good to be true!  I guess there is another problem, and that would be getting it through Congress.  So read the book, go to, write your Congressman, and get involved!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Religion and Science

I don't always care for Charles Krauthammer's opinions, but this one in the Post makes some excellent points. Read the whole thing.

How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein?

Amen. I am very religious, and yet I have no problem with evolution. At conservative, religious BYU, I studied evolution taught by church-going professors, and never did I notice any student or faculty uproars over it. It was just education as usual.

I'm afraid that many people who shriek against evolution are misinformed about it. For example, you still hear the old "man didn't descend from monkeys" argument. (Not true - evolution does not say that we descended from apes. These types of people are an embarrassment to me, and make all religious people look uneducated and uninformed. However, if you don't want to believe in evolution - fine, that's your perogative. But don't be so afraid of it that you try to keep it out of the schools (Wouldn't that be a little like trying to keep prayer out of schools - something these same people want?). If you truly have a fundamental religious belief against evolution, teach your child what you believe at home. Sooner or later they will have to decide for themselves what they believe, and a few days of high school bio class shouldn't "corrupt" them if you have taught them well. For my part, I will teach my children to pray at home, and expect that they will survive 7 hours at school without prayer! I will also teach them that religion and science can coexist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Woodward Testimony a 'Bombshell' for CIA Leak Case

This is from I guess I'm a bit naive about these things, but I'll show my ignorance anyway. Why did it take so long for Woodward to come forward with this information?


I’m learning how to knit!  Last night at Enrichment meeting (women’s group at church) there was a mini-class on how to knit.  Even though I am terrible at that sort of thing, I decided to give it a shot.  I was definitely the densest person there; I had to be shown each step many times.  After an hour, I proudly left with a small, error-filled, beginning of a scarf.  I worked on it some more last night and discovered that although I began with fifteen stitches, I now had thirty-one.  That’s not supposed to happen.  I restarted twice this morning (amazed that I remembered how!), and I am getting the hang of it.  There’s kind of an addiction to it.  Now I have one more thing to keep me from doing my housework.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In Special-Ed Case, Court Backs Montgomery Schools

Thank goodness for this Supreme Court decision. I'm sympathetic to the plight of special-ed students and their parents, but there has to be some measure of sanity in the system. Basically, the ruling states that if parents have a beef with the school over their child's IEP, it is up to the parent to prove why the IEP is inadequate. In other words, if you have a problem, then you have to be a part of the solution. The parents can still take the school to court, but have to do their research first. Hopefully this will cut down on lawsuits (our new national pastime), and allow schools to more fairly distribute their funds among all their students. Currently amazing amounts of money ($312 million a year in Montgomery Co., VA), are spent on special ed services. Both schools I taught at had a full-time certified special ed teacher who did nothing but IEPS, ARDs, meet with parents and teachers, hold hearings, and the like. She taught no classes. By the way, when you see a school's student-to-teacher ratio, know that teachers like that are factored into the equation, even though they never teach a child.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fine Dining

Sometimes I wonder why I cook dinner.  It takes a lot of effort and patience to cook with a toddler hanging on your legs fussing and her older sister making various demands.  Then after we finally get seated, the meal is over in about ten or fifteen minutes.  Those few minutes are filled with interruptions, such as trips back to the frig for milk refills.  Tonight our chief source of distraction was a laughing contest between the two girls.  A laughing contest is where the participants try to see who can be the loudest.  It was cute at first, but after a few minutes it became highly annoying.  At least they did both eat what I had made.  I must be grateful for what I can get!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quick Weekend Trip

Now that my husband works at a bank I don’t complain about bank holidays anymore.  Saturday was a stake temple day, so we decided to make an outing of it and went up (to D.C.) on Friday and did a little shopping that afternoon.  It’s not too easy dragging the girls around, but we did get to a few stores that we don’t have around here.  Most exciting, I finally got a winter dress coat for myself at Burlington.  We then went to my sister’s place in Mclean for the night.  That evening I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall by myself, but didn’t buy anything.  It’s fun to look there, but most of it just isn’t in my budget.  

This was the first overnight trip we’d taken since July, so I was curious to see how Kate had changed – I was hoping for the better.  Both girls ended up going to sleep way later than usual (we paid for that yesterday), but once they were asleep they stayed out all night.  Sophie did fall off of the sofa twice, but landed on our air mattress and never woke up.  Saturday, my sister watched them while J. and I went to the temple which was spiritually refreshing as usual.  Tomorrow will be the big clean-up-from-the-weekend day.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Keep the Internet Free

This is good information to have. There will be a summit soon in Tunisia (?!), to determine who controls and regulates the Internet. Apparently there are quite a few repressive regimes who are anxious to control the Internet in their respective countries, for obvious reasons. Let's hope the U.S. can stand up to them!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Public Restrooms

I hate using public restrooms, and have very careful and elaborate techniques to avoid touching anything in one. You just never know what disease-ridden person has been in there before you! Today I was faced with a real trial. I took the girls to Burger King to play on the playground. I’m sitting on the bench, eating fries, and watching them enjoy themselves, when Sophie strikes fear into my heart by exclaiming, “Me go pee-pee.” I asked her to repeat herself, hoping I had heard wrong. Nope. Horrors. What to do? Recently, I had to take her to the restroom at the public library, but I’m classicist enough to say that I think the general clientele of a library is cleaner than that of a fast food restaurant. Plus, it was just the two of us. This time I have Kate with me! Toddling-touching-everything-not-listening-to-one-word-that-Mommy-says-Kate.

However, I had no real choice so I picked up Kate and hustled Sophie on down to the bathroom. I briefly considered asking a stranger to watch Kate for me, but decided against it for obvious reasons. Fortunately it looked reasonably clean inside. Sophie promptly puts her hands on the toilet seat. Kate explores, but mostly just touched the walls (I’m sure they have never been cleaned – I worked at McDonald’s when I was a teenager, and I know how these places function). Sophie is so small I have to hold her on the seat, and her clothes touch it! Aaagghhh. Skipping to the end of this painful tale, it has now been three hours since then, and none of us show any signs of disease yet. So I guess we will all survive!

Kaine to be VA governor

Election results are in, and my candidate lost.  I’m not as disappointed as I would be normally, as I think Kaine will be okay.  I had a very difficult time this election deciding who to vote for, since on many issues Kaine and Kilgore were similar.  I usually vote Republican, but Kilgore’s negative campaign ads were just awful.  I agonized for weeks, and even yesterday I changed my mind three times, finally making my decision as I walked to the polling station.  In the end, I voted for Kilgore, but decided I wouldn’t be too devastated if Kaine won.  His mentor, Gov. Warner, has done a decent job for a Democrat, and hopefully Kaine will follow suit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day

The difference one year makes - a year ago, when I went to vote (without taking the girls), I had to time it between newborn breastfeedings, drive even thought it was just two blocks away, and park as close as I could to the door.  There was a bit of a line, and I almost had to ask for a chair to sit in, as I was still recovering from my c-section.  This year it was no big deal.  I didn’t need to wait for Jeryl to come home.  This afternoon I walked with the girls to go vote at a nearby church.  I had Kate in the stroller, and Sophie is big enough to walk.  How nice it is to be feel healthy and fit again!

Fires in France

From the Washington Post editorial Fires in France, we have some more rhetoric aimed at getting the reader to feel sorry for criminals and excuse their behavior.

But not all the demonstrators are hoodlums and drug dealers either, as some senior French officials portray them;

Demonstrators? What kind of a lie is that? If you are a demonstrator, you march in the streets, hold rallies, wave signs, etc. If you committ crimes such as arson and attacking the police, you have crossed the line from merely demonstrating, and are now a hoodlum. Maybe not a drug dealer, but certainly a hoodlum.

Dangerous Baby

Yesterday Kate chipped a tooth – my tooth!  She was playing with a pot lid.  I foolishly got down on her level, she grinned, toddled over waving the lid, and whack!  It wasn’t until that evening that I felt the rough spot on a lower front tooth.  It doesn’t show, but I am a little worried that the tooth is weakened now.  This is the kind of dental work I really don’t want to pay for, so I’ll just hope for the best.  

Monday, November 07, 2005

Less guns, less death

After 10 or 11 days of rioting, arson, and violence in France, they have had their first fatality.  I wonder how different it would be if they had as many guns as we do here in the U.S.  

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands

Mark Steyn makes some great points about the situation in France, although his history lesson on past Muslim invasions in Europe isn't really necessary. He points out what many Americans don't seem to comprehend: these angry North African Muslim youth are a major problem in many European cities, and have been for a long time. In my opinion, there is little parallel between the European situation and discrimination against minorities in this country, but much of the media keeps trying to find common threads. It's hard to understand if you haven't been there. My bet is that Steyn has. I have been there, and it's still hard for me to explain.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

VA schools must offer tutoring option

If a poor-performing school has to offer its students the option of transferring elsewhere (under the No Child Left Behind Act), it also has to offer them the option of private tutoring at the school's expense. What on earth? What an insanely expensive option. With all the things school need, this seems to be an inequitable distribution of funds.

Apparently 17.6% of eligible VA students took advantage of this. It sure saves the parents a lot of trouble and money. Really, it's sad that more eligible students aren't doing it. That shows something about the culture of learning (or lack thereof) in this country.

On a side note, I don't care for the term "poor-performing school." It should be "school with poor-performing students."

Table update

Well, I forced myself to finish sanding, although it wasn’t the most thorough job.  This morning my husband and I carried it out to the carport and I put on a coat of stain.  It actually looks good – much better than I thought it would!  I am so relieved.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Youths" riot in France

This AP report on has a really hard time saying who is responsible. The word "Muslim" is mentioned only once! Otherwise it is simply "youths."

Who, where, what, when, and why - the basics elements of reporting that kids learn in grade school. - Fiery riots spread beyond Paris

Having spent some time in these poorer non-tourist areas of France, I am not surprised at the violence. However, unlike some French officials, I think there is no good excuse for it, and it should be dealt with harshly. How can a so-called civilized country let law and order break down like this? Here are a few mind-boggling selections from the news article on the French rioting.

Much of the rioting has occurred in areas heavily populated by poor African Muslim immigrants and their French-born children who are weary of poverty, crime, poor education and unemployment.

(So the reader can feel sorry for them. As a side note, apparently socialism is not the success some would have us capitalists believe.)

The youths were apparently angered by a police crackdown on drug trafficking in their neighborhood, AP reported.

(How dare those police do that!)

The rioting began last Thursday after two teenagers of African descent -- Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17 -- were accidentally electrocuted while apparently trying to escape from police by hiding in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.
Officials have said police were not chasing the boys, and the Interior Ministry has released a preliminary report exonerating officers of any direct role in the deaths, according to AP.

(Moral: Don't run away from the police. Nobody made them hide there.)

Speaking to parliament Wednesday, de Villepin demanded punishment for lawbreakers but used calmer language than that used by Sarkozy, who has been criticized for calling the protesting youths "scum."

A police union official has proposed establishing a curfew and bringing in the military to help handle the rioting, while some members of the opposition Socialist Party have suggested the police should withdraw from the communities to quell the unrest.

(Eight days of this and there's no curfew yet? Bring in the military, by all means. Police withdrawal - good grief!)

I hate sanding.

I've lost my enthusiasm for refinishing furniture. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I detest sanding. Unfortunately, it's one of those projects that once you start you're more committed than most marriages are these days. So maybe we'll be stuck eating in the kitchen off of barstools forever. I'm kind of tempted to just stop sanding now and slap some spar urethane on. How bad could it really look?

Thursday, November 03, 2005 - Glued to toilet, man sues Home Depot

This is just one more reason why you should never let yourself touch public toilet seats. Poor guy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 - Critics Slam Univ. of Oregon Diversity Effort

In an effort to promote diversity at the University of Oregon a plan has been developed that would hire, fire and promote professors not just on the quality of their teaching and research, but on their so-called “cultural competency."

Supporters say they understand the challenges, but such a program is necessary because racism and discrimination persist.

I can't stand those types of programs (usually boring, a waste of time, patronizing, assume the worst of its white students), having had to sit through them myself (although I was never faced with losing my job over it). The motives behind these diversity efforts are usually noble - make the world a better place by teaching everyone to get along. But in my opinion this program (and most others like it) is very misguided because the people that need to be taught "cultural competency" the most are neither college students or professors. The target audience should be young children, and the teachers should be their parents. Any other teacher is bound to be much less effective. Whenever I came across prejudice in my classroom I tried my best to address it and correct it, but I cannot think of oneinstance where I had any effect on the child's opinion. Even though kids act like they hate their parents, that is whom they look to for their culture and mores.

Refinishing the table

I took the girls to Home Depot this morning and bought some stain and other supplies.  I’m going to tackle refinishing our dining room table.  We bought it at a yard sale, and the finish is quite marred, so I figured I can only make it look better (I hope!).  But I’m going to be lazy and just do the tabletop.  I just can’t stand to sand corners, table legs, etc.  Last spring I refinished a nightstand, I learned how hard all that detail work is.  I tried using paint remover (overcoming my fears after reading the warning label), but did not have good results with it, as I did not really know what I was doing.  So this time I’m taking the easy way out, even if it is a little unorthodox.  I know the stain I bought doesn’t exactly match the original, but hopefully it won’t be too glaringly different.  Of course, half the challenge of this project has nothing to do with craftsmanship and everything to do with trying to do it with my two little “helpers.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 - Woman Saves Boy

A Richmond woman, 56, with her foot in cast, stepped in to save a 3 year old from being choked by a man, as bystanders watched! She is hailed as a hero, while everyone wonders why no one else stepped in to help. It saddens me that people are like that. Is it fear? Or are we so numbed to violence from TV and movies, that when we actually see it happening in front of us violence causes less shock than it should? Mary Geibel explained her actions, "It was instinct." So where were everyone else's instincts?